Give me a child until he is seven...

Very few adopters have the privilege of raising a child for their whole first seven years. None of us had any influence over the months of development before their birth. Some children will move to their adoptive families after this first seven years is already over.

OB has recently turned seven, and Loyola's (or was it Aristotle's?) saying has been ringing in my ears: give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.

Whoever it was that said this first must have instinctively understood something that attachment research, developments in neuroscience and our own experiences of raising children affected by trauma are making increasingly clear - that a child's earliest experiences are foundational to the rest of their development and to their lives.

So if I look at OB now, do I see the man? In some ways, I hope I do. I see a child who is generous and kind, who loves his sister and his foster brother, cares for them when they cry, looks for ways to entertain them and make them laugh. I see a child who loves his friends and his family, who is inquisitive and creative and who has an insanely good memory. I see many qualities that I hope to see in the man he will become.

I also see a few things I hope disappear a long time before he can be called a man!

And sometimes, yes, I do see a legacy of the parts of his life that didn't go so well, that I had no control over. Will they form part of the man? I suspect they will at least to some extent. Recent research into Adverse Childhood Experiences shows a devastating link between childhood trauma and a range of adult physical and mental health conditions.

And yet . . . and yet I have hope, and I have faith. Although there are struggles, my lovely boy's true nature is sweet and kind, generous and loyal. His brain is still developing, learning and adapting to the world he now lives in. Something else that neuroscience shows us is that this process will continue long after his 7th birthday.

Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you . . . a seven year old child. Let's wait and see before we pronounce judgement on the man.


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